Commentary on Colossians, 4:10-11 (Leaving a Legacy)

Colossians 4:10-11

“Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark, the cousin of Barnabas (regarding whom you received instructions, if he comes to you, welcome him),”

“Aristarchus”

A Macedonian from Thessalonica, and was a traveling companion and fellow worker of Paul’s (Ac 19:29; 20:4; 27:2; Philemon 1:24).

“Mark, the cousin of Barnabas”

Also called John Mark. Writer of the Gospel of Mark.

“(regarding whom you received instructions, if he comes to you, welcome him),”

Mark started out with Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey (Ac 12:25), but then left the work for an unknown reason and returned to Jerusalem (Acd 13:13). It may have been out of fear, for we know that Paul went through much pain and hardship for the name of Christ. Whatever his reason was, it wasn’t good enough for Paul. Later when Barnabas wanted to take Mark with them, Paul didn’t approve. This created a sharp disagreement between them, and Barnabas and Paul ended up separating from each other (Ac 15:36-41).

Although this is a sad note in the history of the early church, never seeing Barnabas again in the book of Acts, Mark’s time and service with Barnabas must have been life-changing, for he not only regained the approval of Paul, and proved to be useful (2 Ti 4:11), but he also ended up writing the Gospel of Mark.

The unfaithfulness of Mark (leaving the work), must have become known to many Christians during that time, losing the respect of many. Thus Paul found it necessary to instruct the the Colossian church to welcome Mark if he came. Someone had previously instructed them about Mark. It may have been Paul, but it’s not clear. These instructions likely included information about Mark’s turn around of faithful service to the Lord.

Mark’s situation is very instructive to us, as well. It shows that a person can repent of sin and unfaithful service, and become very useful in ministry. We need to be forgiving when someone falls into sin, and repents. We need to be accepting of someone who has a reputation of being an unreliable servant, but has shown a sincere desire to serve Christ faithfully.

We should never underestimate the value of a Christian who has sinned, or who has been worthless as a servant of Christ in the past. I believe  that the regret and remorse can run so deep, that a person will spend the rest of their life making up for it. I believe Peter is a perfect example of that. He denied Christ three times, and wept bitterly over it (Mt 26:75; Lu 22:62). I believe Peter spent the rest of his life with the memory of that denial in his heart. I believe it had a profound and life-changing effect upon him. I believe it drove him to serve with a greater passion, for he who is forgiven much, loves much (Lu 7:47).

“11 and Jesus who is called Justus, who are of the circumcision: These only are my fellow workers for the Kingdom of God, men who have been a comfort to me.”

“Jesus who is called Justus”

Jesus was a common Jewish name. It was the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew name Joshua. I’m guessing he didn’t feel right about using the same name as the Lord, so he went by the name of Justus. Or perhaps this is the name given to him by other Christians for the same reason.

“who are of the circumcision”

Referring to Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus.

“These only are my fellow workers for the Kingdom of God”

Paul means that these three men are the only believers among the Jews that were with him (as reflected by the ESV, NAS, LEB, NIV, HCSB), as Paul mentions several Gentile Christians in this chapter who were also with him. 

The fellow workers Paul mentions in this chapter, were in full time ministry. However, we’re all “workers for the Kingdom of God.” No matter what we do in life by way of occupation, we are first and foremost, servants of the Lord, working to advance God’s Kingdom. We should never lose sight of that fact, and get caught up in the things of this world. We need to be faithful in witnessing to the lost, and serving God’s people. We shouldn’t be like the Mark who left the work early in his Christian journey. We need to be like the Mark who served well later on, and was used by God to write one of the four Gospels. His faithfulness continues to produce fruit to this very day.

Mark and Paul left behind them a wonderful legacy through their life and writings, that has continued for 2000 years. This is something I often think about myself. I want to leave a legacy that will continue to make a difference in people’s lives long after I’m gone. Where I have failed in serving the Lord in my lifetime, I want to make up for after the Lord takes me home. That’s why I teach and write. That’s why I have The Arminian Files. I want my life to count for Christ until His glorious return.

I think we should all ask ourselves what kind of legacy we will leave behind us. That’s something we should all be considering and praying about. A legacy can be either positive or negative. If we’re faithfully serving Christ and walking in His will, then we will leave a positive legacy. The difference we make in people’s lives now, will continue long after we’re gone. That one person we lead to Christ, may lead a 100 more. Each of them, in turn, may lead many more to Christ. That one person we disciple to Christian maturity, may disciple many more….and continue on. If the people we know are living for Christ because of our godly influence, then we can enter eternity knowing that we are leaving behind us a positive legacy, one that will continue to influence others after we depart.

“men who have been a comfort to me.”

Even Paul, who walked close to Jesus, appreciated and benefited from the comfort and encouragement he received from others. We should live our lives and speak in such a manner, that we’re always an encouragement to everyone around us. That should be something that we’re always thinking about and striving for. We will either be an encourager, or a discourager. We either bring comfort, or we bring distress. If we walk in love and kindness and grace, and sensitivity to others, we will be the sunshine that brightens their lives.